Saturday, November 27, 2010

Omar Minaya would have pursued Derek Jeter

When Omar Minaya became Mets GM after the 2004 season, his first major move was signing a future Hall of Famer one year removed from a great season. The superstar was available because his team thought his best years were behind him and they did not want to give him a contract based on past glory. But Minaya felt that Pedro Martinez would bring the mediocre Mets instant respectability. And he was right.

Pedro's signing helped get Carlos Beltran to sign with the Mets that same offseason. Pedro's personality made him a fan favorite. And on the field, Pedro showed he still had plenty left. In 2005, Pedro went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 208 strikeouts in 217 innings. With Pedro as the new ace of the staff, the Mets went from 71 wins in 2004 to 83 wins in 2005. In 2006, Pedro had a great first half and made the All-Star team as the Mets roared out to a big lead in the NL East on their way to 97 wins and a trip to the NLCS.

Injuries derailed the last 2 1/2 years of Pedro's four-year deal. But Pedro was a key part of the franchise's turnaround, and considering how things went after 2006, I will always see signing Pedro as one of Minaya's best moves.

After the 2007 season, Jorge Posada's contract was up. The Mets needed a catcher and Minaya reportedly targeted Posada, who stayed with the Yankees but may have gotten a four-year deal instead of three thanks to his testing the market.

So if Minaya were still running the Mets, you can bet he'd want free agent Derek Jeter.

What if the Mets were willing and able to spend tens of millions of dollars this offseason, as they did in five of Minaya's six years as GM? What if they decided to trade Jose Reyes for much-needed starting pitching?

What if Jeter were willing to leave the Yankees - and what if he were willing to come to the Mets? And what if he were willing to sign for something along the lines of the Yankees' reported three years, $45 million?

This is where I'm glad that the Mets have a new general manager. One who was hired to clean up Minaya's mess.

Minaya lived by the expensive acquisition and died by the expensive acquisition. Signing or trading for Pedro, Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner made the Mets a contender. But they were a win-now team, and when they didn't win, most of Minaya's subsequent moves ended up leaving the team with too many overpriced players who were aging, injured or Oliver Perez.

Signing Jeter for 2011 is the ultimate win-now move, and the 2011 Mets are no longer a win-now team.

Let's look at the best-case scenario - Jeter regains his 2009 MVP-caliber form and infuses the Mets with his "intangibles." Alderson has landed an ace for Reyes. The Mets would be better off in 2011, but if they gave Jeter anything close to his reported demands, they would be on the hook for $20-25 million per year for another aging player well past his prime.

And that's the best-case scenario. It's more likely that Jeter is already well into his decline. The Mets would come across as trying to glom onto Yankee glory and failing.

Meanwhile, the Yankees would do something like swing a trade for Hanley Ramirez, who would become this generation's Tino Martinez, replacing a legend and winning over the fans by helping the Bombers win more titles.

Unlike Don Mattingly, still beloved as a lifelong Yankee (as a player), Jeter would see his reputation tarnished by deserting the Yankees for the crosstown rivals and failing to lead them to a title while his old team continued to flourish.

The best thing for Jeter and the Yankees is for Jeter to stay with the Bombers for something close to what the Yankees have offered.

The best thing for the Mets is for Alderson to build a winning organization without looking for a quick-fix that is unlikely to work anyway.

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